What I Learned About My Struggle With Gambling Addiction

Contributed by James Kelly

I’m a gambling addict. What started as a simple after work activity with the guys from the office quickly spiraled into something that became an obsession. At the height of my addiction, I was gambling not only entire paychecks, but also taking advances on my future pay, selling things from my own house, and even borrowing money from friends and relatives. I was past the point of being able to call myself a recreational gambler. I was an addict.

I needed help. Luckily, I sought treatment. My wife and I started researching gambling rehabilitation centers, and decided on one based on its proximity to my home. It helped that it was a male-only facility with experts on staff that were well-versed in the nuances of addiction.

Here’s what I learned:

It’s a disease.
My wife, my friends, my family… they all thought that this was as simple as me stopping. What they didn’t realize is that the brain of an addict is wired differently from those that aren’t. If I had stopped going to the casino, I would have just sought out other means to fulfill the high that was brought on by gambling. It became something that was no longer fun, but instead a drug that I needed in order to get through my day-to-day life.

I couldn’t fix it on my own.
I didn’t just wake up one day and decide that I might have a problem. The problematic behavior was quite apparent for months before I ever sought treatment. In fact, I knew that each trip to the casino was a bad idea, but yet I rationalized it internally and went anyway. I was constantly telling myself that I had discovered a new trick, a strategy, or had a hot tip that would ensure success and that this could be the one that brought me back into the black for the year. I couldn’t stop, and there was no amount of self realization that could make me not place that next bet.

The gambling addiction was merely a symptom of an addictive behavior.
I was an addict. The gambling part was merely a symptom, much like an addiction to alcohol, drugs, or sex. I was seeking a high that only my problem behavior could facilitate, and if it hadn’t been gambling  then it could have just as easily been alcohol.

Support following my treatment was just as important – if not more so – than the treatment itself. 
After I finished treatment, I was at a crossroads. I wasn’t gambling anymore, but I was at a point where I was only accountable to myself, and that was a scary proposition. I quickly sought additional care through the form of group and individual therapy that would help me to make it through this trying time. I needed someone – besides myself – to remain accountable to, and I knew I couldn’t do it on my own. My post-sobriety treatment kept me accountable for my actions, and may have been the biggest overall factor in my recovery. In fact, I’m still utilizing group therapy to this day, even thought I haven’t placed a wager in months.

It’s been months since I’ve placed my last bet, and I know now that I’ll never be able to place another one… even casually. I know that there are triggers in my behavior and if they aren’t avoided one harmless wager can send me spiraling back into the exact life that I chose to leave. I’m an addict, and that will never change. What will change, however, is how I deal with my addiction. I’m on the road to recovery now, and I’d encourage anyone who may have a problem to seek the help they need, before it’s too late.

James Kelly has had many personal struggles with addiction over the past 6 years but is able to take more steps forward when he is open about it. Writing, blogging, and talking about his personal development has put himself into an all-time best position with his family and friends and being open has gotten James this far, there is no limit to how far he can move past previous mistakes to a happy future.

Yes, Dear, Smoking Dope IS a Big Deal

Dear Mr. Dad: My 15-year old daughter has been suspended from school several times for smoking marijuana on campus. She also regularly comes home from parties smelling like pot. My wife and I smoked when we were in college (we don’t anymore), but we’ve told our daughter that she shouldn’t. She just calls us hypocrites and says that smoking weed isn’t that big of a deal. We’re worried about her. What can we do?

A: Step number one is to quit worrying about your daughter’s dope smoking and start actually doing something to make her stop. Cities across the country—and two entire states (Colorado and Washington—have either decriminalized or completely legalized marijuana use. So it’s no surprise that many of your daughter’s peers agree with her that smoking it is “no big deal.” In fact, that misguided opinion has been gaining popularity among teens for quite some time. In 2005, 74% of eighth graders and 58% of 12th graders said that being a regular marijuana user was dangerous. Today, it’s 61% and 40%, respectively.

A recent study done at Northwestern University found that teens who smoked marijuana regularly had “abnormal changes in their brain structures related to working memory and performed poorly on memory tasks.” But what does “regular” mean? In the Northwestern study, it was every day for three years. But according to addiction researcher Constance Scharff, from Cliffside Malibu (an addiction treatment center), “regular” could mean as little as once a week. “Pot damages the heart and lungs,” says Dr. Scharff. “And it increases the incidence of shorter tempers, anxiety, depression, and schizophrenia, and it can trigger acute psychotic episodes.” Regardless of your definition of “regular,” the younger one is when lighting up for the first time, the greater the damage.

Some say that marijuana isn’t addictive, but a growing amount of research shows that as many as one in six smokers—especially those under 25, whose brain is still developing—will become addicted. Many experts also consider marijuana to be a “gateway drug,” meaning that smoking it increases the likelihood of trying other, more dangerous—and more addictive—drugs.

Here’s what to do to get your daughter to quit:

  • Explain. The pot you smoked when you were in college was nowhere near as strong as what’s available today. Plus, in your day, most people didn’t start experimenting with drugs until about age 20. Today, kids as young as 11 or 12 are trying drugs. By the time they reach 20 they’ve already done major damage to their brain.
  • Get tough. If she gets an allowance, cancel it (If she doesn’t have money, she won’t be able to buy drugs, and her friends will get tired of her mooching off them). If she’s hoping to get a driver’s license or permit anytime soon, cancel that too. Take away her phone, ground her. If she any of those things back, she’ll have to earn them by taking regular drug tests (you can get at-home kits at many drugstores) and staying clean for several months.
  • Eat together. Children who have regular meals with their parents tend to have lower rates of drug and alcohol abuse. But the meals themselves aren’t magic—it’s the conversations and clear messages that mom and dad care that do the trick.
  • Encourage sports. Athletes tend to care about their body and they tend to stay away from things that could negatively affect their performance.
  • Get help. If none of this works, you’ll need to find a therapist who has lots of experience–and success—working with teens who have drug abuse or addiction issues.

Recovery From Opiate Addiction Is Possible

No one deliberately sets out to become addicted to opiates, but it happens, sometimes as the result of medication prescribed following an injury or medical procedure. Opioids include morphine, OxyContin, codeine and heroin to name a few. Opiates are used to treat pain. Opium comes from the poppy plant. Withdrawal When withdrawing from this substance [...]

Recovery From Opiate Addiction Is Possible

No one deliberately sets out to become addicted to opiates, but it happens, sometimes as the result of medication prescribed following an injury or medical procedure. Opioids include morphine, OxyContin, codeine and heroin to name a few. Opiates are used to treat pain. Opium comes from the poppy plant. [Read more...]

Addiction And Substance Abuse –The Chicken Or The Egg

Some individuals possess what are called concurrent disorders. Individuals with concurrent disorders possess both a mental health illness as well as an addiction.  Some individuals who are depressed drink to mask their depression. Conversely, many alcoholics become clinically depressed over time because alcohol is a depressant and it changes their brain chemistry to produce chronic [...]

Eliminating Allergies + Food is Fooling You

Guest 1: Alexandra Anca, author of The Food Allergy Health and Diet Guide .
Topic: Managing food allergies and intolerances by eliminating common allergens and gluten.
Issues: Identifying the most common allergens; finding out for sure whether you have an allergy/intolerance; strategies for living with food allergies; preparing healthy, delicious allergen-free meals.


Guest 2: David Kessler, author of Your Food is Fooling You.
Topic: How your brain is hijacked by sugar, fat, and salt.
Issues: Why we overeat; why it’s so hard to stop; how we can break the cycle once and for all; additional pressured by teens; helping teens stay away from potentially lifelong bad habits.